Last year was Tawadros’ Christmas: he had just been elected Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Twelve months have passed since then and it
has been a tough time for Egypt.
The country’s armed forces are back at
the helm, many have died during the demonstrations staged by the Muslim
Brotherhood and churches across the country have been left scarred by
the wave of Islamist attacks last August.
So as the Coptic community
prepares to celebrate Christmas tomorrow (7 January) it finds itself
suspended between the fear of fresh violence and the hope of beginning a
The confrontation between General al Sisi and the Islamists has
worsened to a truly worrying degree in recent days after the
government’s decision to officially outlaw the Muslim Brotherhood.
people have died taking to the streets, renewing the Copts’ fear that
they will be easy targets for those who hold them “responsible” for the
military coup that overthrew President Morsi last July in the wake of
the people’s protests. Mr. Morsi is still in prison now.
promised to tighten security around Coptic churches during the Christmas
period. Particularly as Christmas is being celebrated just a week ahead
of an all-important constitutional referendum, due to be held on 14 and
Egyptians will vote on an amended version of the
Constitution, which changes some of the most contested articles
introduced by the Muslim Brotherhood and is going to be an important
test bed for post-Islamist Egypt.
The Copts are well aware of what is at stake here. “We carry a heavy
and painful legacy, with many who died having fallen victim to
violence,” wrote Joussef Sifhom, editor-in-chief of Christian weekly Watani,
in his Christmas editorial. “Still, it is not the same thing as being
trapped in a tunnel with no escape route - as Egypt had become under the
Islamists – and trying to get out of this tunnel to move on, with
terrorists continuously placing obstacles along the way.”
The most important Christmas celebration in Cairo will be the
midnight liturgy in St. Mark’s cathedral. Egypt’s interim President,
Adil Mansour, and Prime Minister Hazem el Beblawy have been invited to
On 1 January, Pope Tawadros met the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar
University, Ahmed al-Tayyeb, who extended his wishes to Egypt’s
Christians together with the Grand Mufti Shawky Allam. This was made all
the more significant by the fact that Al-Azhar has always been a
battleground between its moderate leaders and supporters of the Muslim
“Let us ask God to make this year a new year in all
senses," Pope Tawadros told the Grand Imam. "May this year be full of
goodness and peace for the whole of Egypt. May God grant leaders wisdom
to govern the country and peace to all peoples.”
As regards the
referendum on the Egyptian Constitution, Pope Tawadros said he hoped it
would reflect the country as every citizen would like it to. He added
that the Coptic Church “will do all that it can to ensure a united